Today we're featuring a guest post from Cassandra Sadek.
I've been reading Ecoholic by Adria Vasil, and have felt the call to make a concerted effort to lessen my footprint on the environment. So when I read the part about the ways that disposable razors and foaming shave gels negatively impact the environment, I decided that perhaps THIS was my opportunity! THIS would be step 1 in my new drive to make the world a better place!One of the eco-friendly solutions to hair removal is the ancient process of sugaring. It's much like waxing, but without the toxins and gunk. Plus, the cloth strips are easily washable with a little hot water, and therefore reusable. Bonus!After a bit of Googling I found the universal recipe for successful sugaring:
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
I bought some basic cotton fabric and cut it into strips. I bought a hefty bag of sugar and a lemon. I got a candy thermometer to ensure I got it to the precise 250 degree temp. And I set to work.
The directions were followed, but as I was waiting for my sugar-licious mixture to cool down to the point where I could slap it on my legs without needing a call to 911, it started to harden. In a panic I tried spreading the amber mixture on my leg, and not only did it not stick to my leg because of the cornstarch I'd powdered with because this website recommended it for "tautness making it more effective," but it was also still WAY TOO HOT.
As it continued to set to a rock candy stage, I ran down to the kitchen to try and get it out of the glass dish before it completely set.
One foot of wax paper, a spatula, a spoon, and a paring knife later, I had a lovely little blob of artwork on my counter, and a dark amber dish you could have preserved a Jurassic mosquito in.
Mr. Man came to my rescue, and amidst giggling fits, helped me reheat the solution so the glass dish could be saved.
Moral of the story: Leave the sugaring to the professionals, ladies. There are much less stressful (and less messy!) ways to save the earth.
• Bikini waxing 101
• The homemade spa
• How to choose eco-friendly makeup
• Green beauty companies we love
While women are naturals at communicating and forming communities, it's tougher for us guys. I was a stay-at-home dad for many years—I even had a blog called Mack Daddy, which quixotically tried to make being an SAHD seem cool—and I know that, as a dad, you can feel isolated, like you're the only guy in the world going through what you're going through. Reading some other dude's blog is one of the best cures. Dad bloggers offer a unique window into what men think about their lives in the wake of having children.
Maybe in some utopian future when we're all riding around in hovercars, we will speak only of "parent bloggers," making no distinction between male and female. Until then, dad blogs add a spicy flavour to the blogosphere. A flavour kind of like…barbecue.
Here are some of my go-to sites that let me know I'm not alone:
How to Be a Dad is my favourite, mostly because it's really funny. Charlie Capen and Andy Herald are the two heavily caffeinated, sleep-deprived dads behind this guy-type-humour blog. They're located in California, but fatherhood truly is a universal (and universally funny) experience, as proved by their posts. Check out pieces like "Types of Diaper Load" (which includes diagrams of "the log jammer," "the inverted exorcist" and "nuclear nugget") and "Zombie vs. Baby," which reveals the surprising similarities between the two creatures ("no sense of right and wrong…keeps you awake at night in fear…can turn others into zombies"). After all, if you can't laugh about things, what's the point?
Canadian Dad is a blog run by Ottawa father-of-two Chris Read. Chris speaks more to the sentimental side of fatherhood, and he recommends products and activities. His blog has a pro-fatherhood bent, aimed at counteracting the image of fathers as disengaged doofuses. Example: In a recent post he took a hotel commercial to task, wherein a kid wishes his father didn't have to be away on business and could read him a bedtime story. Cut to: Dad having a great time relaxing at the hotel. Ladies, that's not us. We're better than that—or at least we're trying to be. Canadian Dad is great because he never pretends to be perfect. Like most of us, he's just trying really, really hard.
The Urban Daddy is the blog for products and practical tips, especially for things to do when your kids are driving you up the wall. Warren Orlans, the Toronto father behind the blog, says he's "not your typical daddy," and I'm not quite sure what he means by that. (What's typical these days?) But, like me, he has a three-kid, two-career household. Also like me, he and his wife have the odds stacked against them: three to two. He's very good on the topic of "juggling"—which is especially useful for readers who live in urban jungles. Don't kid yourself: It is a jungle out there, and Urban Daddy is a great guide to avoiding the bear traps, vipers' nests and poison darts.
Dad Camp was started in 2009 by a Calgary dad Buzz Bishop as a way of connecting with other dads. But it quickly became a place for parents of both sexes to communicate and share stories and practical tips on how to navigate "the parenting minefield." I like Bishop's raw honesty. He's not afraid to "go there," like when he took heat for admitting that, although none of his children get preferential treatment, he does have a favourite. In response to headlines like "Father Admits to Having Favourite Child, Faces Backlash," he tweeted: "I am not afraid to say what everyone thinks deep inside. It's the Simon Cowell approach to blogging. If you don't have a fave, you're lying."
Rice vermicelli is a type of rice noodle used in many Asian dishes. It is packaged dry, can be found in most regular grocery stores and can be eaten either hot or cold in soups, salads and stir fried with vegetables, meat and spices. Rice vermicelli is often referred to as rice stick vermicelli and comes in different sizes.
Here's what you need to do: 1)
Place your noodles in a large heatproof bowl.* 2)
Pour boiling water over top of noodles to cover completely. I like to use a kettle instead of my stove. 3)
Let noodles stand according to package directions. For noodles that are 3 mm wide (pictured below), it takes about 6 minutes. 4)
Drain and rinse with cold water, drain again. This stops the cooking process and prevents the noodles from sticking together. If you are preparing these noodles in advance and find that they are sticking together, just rinse under some additional cold water.
*I like to use a kettle, but if you prefer to use your stove top, here's what you need to do for steps 1 & 2: In large pot, bring water to boil. Remove from heat; add noodles and let sit according to package directions.
Here are some of our favourite recipes featuring rice vermicelli:
Vietnamese Vermicelli with Grilled BeefVegetarian Salad RollsHanoi-Style Vermicelli Noodles with FishRice Vermicelli Salad
We polled family doctors from across the country, and they laid down the law on eight things they wish we'd do—or stop doing.
According to our panel of general practitioners, Canadians aren't always doing what they should to make the most of doctor visits—and skipping out on these crucial tactics could lead to a delay in diagnosing serious conditions. Here's what our experts say you should add to your patient checklist.
1. Stop feeling shy
Many of us hesitate to talk to our physicians about sensitive issues (think substance abuse or sexual health—or even gender identity). But honesty and openness are important, both for fostering a good doctor-patient relationship and for ensuring that you get the best care, says Dr. Laura Pripstein, medical director of the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto and a staff physician on the family health team. That's why it's OK to try out a doc before committing. Dr. Pripstein recommends booking an initial visit to see if your potential doctor is a good fit. "You want to see if this person seems like someone you can talk to, someone you feel comfortable with," she says. And if you don't think your doctor understands or respects your concerns, don't be afraid to find someone new. "If you feel you can't ask questions that might be embarrassing, you don't have the right provider," says Dr. Pripstein.
2. Don't come to your appointments unprepared
Get the most out of your time—and your doc's—by arriving at your appointment with a clear plan for what you want to discuss, says Dr. David Ross, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "It's good to have patients think about their problems from when the issue began, then look at it chronologically to the present," says Dr. Ross. Making a prioritized point-form list in advance helps ensure that you don't forget anything or mix up the order of events, he says. Then, work with your doctor to address the most serious issues first.
3. Choose your family doc over the walk-in clinic whenever you can
Yes, a clinic is convenient, but what we gain in easy access, we lose in familiarity. "I think it's really valuable if people can connect with a family physician who they'll be able to see long term, rather than just looking for the quickest way to access care," says Dr. Maurianne Reade, a physician with the Manitoulin Central Family Health Team in Mindemoya and M'Chigeeng First Nation, Ont. A family doctor will know your medical history and will keep it in mind when suggesting treatment—so, for example, if you've recently taken several courses of antibiotics for a UTI, your physician will likely look for a different course of action if you come in with another infection. According to the most recent statistics, about 4.5 million Canadians don't have a regular family doctor. If that's you, contact your provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, or check to see if your region has an online registry (Ontario has Health Care Connect, while Quebec launched a web-based family doctor finder last year). "It's important to know that we doctors are privileged to share in your stories and to help you through difficult times," says Dr. Reade.
4. Share what's happening in your life
There's a reason your doctor wants to know where you're working, if you're dating and how the kids are—and it's not just because she likes you. (Though she does, we're sure.) Physicians need a picture of their patients' lives beyond their specific health symptoms and conditions, especially when they're first getting to know you, says Dr. Stephen Wetmore, the family medicine chair at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University in London, Ont. "Doctors need to know these things to understand how your lifestyle and habits may be influencing your health," he says. So when you're talking about your exercise habits, your health history and whether you smoke, drink or use drugs, mention your employment status, family obligations and intimate relationships, too, says Dr. Wetmore.
5. Be a better googler
Doctors know you do it (hello, late-night web searches), but they would prefer you to ask about good sources of information, rather than going rogue online. They also want you to be honest about your fears if you've read something particularly upsetting. Physicians can't address your concerns or point you in the right direction if they don't know what your fingertips have been up to. "The thing we want our patients to do is ask us for the most reliable Canadian websites to go to as resources," says Dr. Heather Waters, an assistant professor of family medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.
6. Don't think your symptoms are "no big deal"
If you've noticed you are having more headaches than usual or are sleeping more or are eating less, you might not think to tell your doctor—but you should. There's no set of rules for determining which symptoms are worthy of investigation or discussion, says Dr. Wetmore, but make a note to mention anything that is new or has changed since your last appointment. "You should bring up things like sudden weight loss or fatigue that seems excessive," he says. "It could be a sign of a larger problem, or the cause of a developing problem." Evenif it doesn't end up being serious, seeing your doctor will help ease any anxiety you might be feeling, and that's worth the visit, too.
7. Talk about what you're taking
Tell your physician about any herbal medications and alternative treatments you take, says Dr. Mel Borins, a University of Toronto associate professor and author of A Doctor's Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why. It's important for patients to share what's working for them and for doctors to be open-minded about therapies outside their own practice or traditions, he says. This is also a concern when it comes to conventional meds, especially if you're pregnant; there are only 23 medications specifically approved for use during pregnancy— yes, out of every available drug—which can leave women feeling anxious about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs when they're expecting, says Dr. Robyn MacQuarrie, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bridgewater, N.S. But don't stop taking your meds as soon as your pregnancy test comes back positive. "It's really important to talk to your doctor instead of stopping cold turkey," says Dr. MacQuarrie. Physicians can help you determine the risks and benefits of using different drugs, and they can let you know when the effects of not taking a medication while pregnant may be worse than taking it— which is the case with some antidepressants.
8. Avoid diagnosing yourself
You know doctors don't like it when you come in prepared with a diagnosis you've made thanks to the aforementioned Dr. Google. But do you know why? It's not because they think you're encroaching on their territory! Rather, they worry that a serious medical problem might get missed or you'll cause yourself unnecessary anxiety over something not serious. That's because not everyone has the most common symptoms of a particular condition. Plus, men, women and different ethnicities can have varying symptoms for the same problem. For instance, Dr. Reade's community has a large proportion of people with diabetes, which can affect the warning signs of cardiac disease, a major killer in Canada. Instead of the usual pain or pressure on the left side of the chest or arm, men and women with diabetes may instead have spells of profuse sweating with weakness. And, of course, women who don't have diabetes can have differing symptoms, too; sometimes, a heart attack can feel like acid reflux or come with sudden nausea, vomiting and lightheadedness. So always tell your physician if your symptoms are surprising or strange—like a headache that feels different than usual, for example. And if you're worried about a specific diagnosis, be sure to bring that up, too.
While every Canadian faces his or her own unique set of health hurdles, there are a number of ailments that have become pervasive in Canada. Though medicine has advanced over the years, our modern lifestyles have introduced a new set of health challenges. Here are some of the top health problems that Canadians face today.
"I've seen more changes this year than in the past three years," says Lisa Gittens, a tax expert at H&R Block.
Here are eight things families will want to be aware of when filling out their 2016 return.
1. Last chance on certain tax credits
The government is phasing out a handful of tax credits and focusing on larger benefits. The children's arts and fitness tax credits will be halved for the 2016 tax year, and cut completely next year, meaning families will no longer be able to defray costs for things like swimming lessons, ballet and tutoring. For post-secondary students, the education and textbook credits are being eliminated in 2017, although education amounts carried forward from previous years will still be claimable.
2. No more income splitting
Also gone is the Family Tax Cut, which lets the higher-earning spouse transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earner. During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to cut it, calling it a "tax break for the wealthy."
With the benefit gone, Gittens recommends a spousal RRSP, which allows the higher-earner to contribute to the lower-earning spouse's RRSP and claim the tax benefit. "You may have an RRSP set up, but you haven't thought about setting it up for your spouse. This is an ideal time to use that strategy," she says.
3. Changes to child benefits
The Canada Child Benefit was a signature feature of the 2016 budget, replacing the old Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. It's non-taxable, so you don't have to claim it. However, in order to continue to receive the benefit, both parents must file a return, even if one doesn't generate any income, says Gittens.
Also keep in mind that the benefit started in July, so you still have to claim the taxable UCC for the first six months of the year.
4. New tax rates
New tax rates mean you may or may not be pleasantly surprised by the size of your tax bill this year. If you're in the meaty middle that earns between $45,000 and $90,000, your rate will come down to 20.5 percent from 22 percent.
"Most Canadians will be receiving more money at the end of the day than they were under the old system," says Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.
However, high-income earners will be paying more due to a new 33 percent bracket for people earnings more than $200,000.
5. Child care expenses
Childcare costs are usually the biggest deduction available for families, says Golombek. But what many people don't realize is that it goes beyond simply daycare. If you have a nanny, you can claim that expense, but also babysitting, if it's during the day, and summer or day camp.
6. Disability tax credit and family caregiver amount
If you have family members with a disability there are certain credits that may be available to you. The Disability Tax Credit is available to people with disabilities to reduce their taxes. For children under age 18, a parent or caregiver may be able to claim the unused amount.
If you're a caregiver to a family member with physical or mental impairments, you may also be able to claim an additional $2,121, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
7. Selling your principal residence
Selling your home has typically not been something you've had to report on your taxes, because usually Canadians don't get taxed for capital gains on their principle residence. But starting with the 2016 tax year, individuals who sold their principal residence during the year must report the sale. The government is ostensibly doing this to crack down on people who try to pass off income-generating homes as their principal residence.
8. eFile early, get your refund early
Tax deadline is April 30, but if you want to get ahead of the game, file early, before the government is inundated with last-minute returns. You can still file the old paper return, but Gittens says you'll be looking at a turnaround time of anywhere up to eight weeks, versus 10-14 days for a return filed early and electronically.